Three verses have lately been swirling through my mind. The first is from the Apostle Paul, a brilliant man who came to recognize the limits to his (and our) understanding of God’s Ways.
I Corinthians 13:12
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
The mirror imagery Paul uses makes me think that not only are we hindered by the poorness of the reflection, we will find it easy to get things backwards. It is as if we are likely to be aiming in the opposite direction from what God desires. Trying to draw our conclusions based on what we see is a poor place to start. Yet Paul promises the time is coming for us when we will no longer struggle with these limitations. That day is coming. What we need while waiting for it is patience.
Two other verses that have been weighing on me are quotes from Jesus. The first is a strange non-explanation that shows up in John’s account of the Last Supper. Less than 24 hours before his death on the cross, Jesus says this to his friends around the table:
I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.
I only noticed this verse recently. I think I have overlooked it until now because it doesn’t really seem to explain anything to me. But I have become pensive over it. It is a frank admission by Jesus that he kept back some information, at first, from the Disciples. He seems to be claiming that sharing detailed information was not necessary as long as the Disciples had him to lead them. His presence (and availability to answer questions?) was all they needed.
I have thought about Jesus recruiting the first Disciples from their work by their fishing boats. “I’ll make you fishers of men!” he announces, inviting them to “Follow me.” Is it fair to point out one result of their following him will be the painful martyr’s deaths by which they will end their lives on earth? That’s one of the things Jesus didn’t tell them at first.
But would it help them to have that information the first day? Would I rather know or not know all that Jesus could tell me about where he intends to lead me? I ask myself the question seven months after a crippling stroke. I seriously doubt knowing it was coming would have allowed me any peaceful sleep in my life. So, is withholding some information an act of kindness and protection by Jesus? Is that what I must conclude?
Of course, Jesus did sometimes lift the veil for a Disciple. After pointedly asking Peter three times if he loved him, Jesus predicts Peter’s future:
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
Peter immediately wants to know what is waiting for another disciples and Jesus refuses to discuss it. John writes that everyone immediately drew the wrong conclusions, proving what Paul would write later about knowing only in part for now. Even the parts we know are not necessarily going to be helpful.
Job also wanted an explanation for events in his life. But eventually he withdrew all his questions and put his hand over his mouth. God gave him a whole book of his own in the Bible and bragged on him. “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright!” (Job 1:8)
I have questions about my life condition just now but the answers remain undisclosed to me.
So let me draw a lesson from Job and learn to say with him, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)
And, Lord, I notice that even though You did not give Job answers to his questions, You did restore all that satan had taken from him. Please, restore me as well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.